Employers representing South African auto industry employers say the complexity of the bargaining situation across multiple sectors is delaying a final offer to striking workers.

The Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) had expected to finish talks last night (13 September) with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), but the 14 sub-sectors involved have made a collective settlement challenging.

Some 70,000 NUMSA members in the South African component, fuel stations, retail franchises and tyre industries among others are now on their 14th day of strike action claiming higher wages and benefits.

"What we don't have is a sectoral bargaining agreement - that is why this takes so long," RMI CEO Jeff Osborne told just-auto from South Africa. "We have reached agreement in some of the sectors in principle."

Osborne added six of the seven OEMs in South Africa had "closed down completely," while even General Motors, which had managed to operate normally, was "pretty much on the edge now."

The RMI boss declined to put a figure on what the walkout had cost the industry, but pointed to the "longer term reputational effect" the widespread strike was having.

NUMSA itself has not ruled out widening the dispute should its requests not be met although this remains somewhat cryptic. Although it denied it was asking other unions to join the protest, a NUMSA spokesman told just-auto: "We might call on our allies."

The union has asked for a 15% wage increase, improvement in severance pay and six months maternity leave.

Should both sides reach an agreement, the deal would be subject to inspection by South Africa's Motor Industry Bargaining Council.